Obviously Mott the Dog does not know how angels sing, but he would not be disappointed if they sounded like Eva Cassidy as she was without doubt ‘the’ female vocalist of her time.
It is one of the cruelest tragedies that Cassidy never lived to enjoy her success. In fact, with her natural, shy personality that kept her from rocketing to superstardom in her short life, she was never sure of her stage presence. She shunned the spotlight till it was nearly too late, or preferred to sing backup vocals or duets, as she did on Chuck Brown’s wonderful album “The Other Side”, released in 1995, which although a Brown album it is the wonderful voice of Cassidy that grabs the attention.
Eva Cassidy refused to limit herself to one style, taking on jazz, funk, blues, rock, pop, and folk, all with that ethereal voice, turning each song into something magical. She released only one solo album in her lifetime, the wonderful “Live at Blues Alley”’ (1996). It was recorded in Washington’s most famous blues club after which it was named, and then it only got a local release.
By the end of that year the dreaded cancer had whisked this beautiful girl with the heavenly voice away from us. Fortunately for those of us left here on our very mortal planet, Eva Cassidy left many recordings behind which are now being released to great critical and commercial acclaim internationally. All of her recordings are lovingly managed by the Eva Cassidy estate. So far we had “Eva By Heart” (1998); “Songbird” (1998); “Time After Time” (2000); “Imagine” (2002); and “American Tune” (2003). These albums have sold over three million copies worldwide and still counting.
It has to be remembered that Cassidy did not write songs herself, but was able to take other people’s skills and twist them into something even greater. At the moment (although I admit it does vary) “Imagine” is my favorite from her collection.
The album opens with a solo version of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Paul Anka (who also wrote “My Way”’, made famous by Frank Sinatra. This is followed by a version of Little Willie John’s “Fever”’, not done as Peggy Lee did it in 1958 but as it was originally intended to be, with Eva’s brother joining her and adding violin to her scratch vocals.
You also get a track that has been salvaged from the Blues Alley sessions, “You’ve Changed”, and when you hear this you realize how high the quality of music was on that particular album. Eva Cassidy’s voice sends shivers up and down your spine and she would surely get a nod of approval from the person who first recorded this song, the great Billie Holiday.
Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” gets redefined here, giving the song a whole new lease of life. Eva even gets a little bit country with her true to the roots version of Patti Page’s hit “Tennessee Waltz”’, which in its days in the 1950’s was one of the first crossover country/pop hits.
To finish the album is one of those “enough to make a grown man cry” moments as Eva Cassidy breaks into an emotional solo version of “Danny Boy”. Still, with all these moments of magic, I think the stand-out song is the title track, a tribute to John Lennon in a touching version of his masterpiece “Imagine”. Play this song in any room and in seconds it will reduce people to silence as they listen to Eva Cassidy’s voice caress the air.
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
Who Knows Where The Time Has Gone
Still Not Ready
Early Morning Rain
I Can Only Be Me
Note: Written by Mott The Dog from Fletchers’ Folly on Pattaya’s Dark Side.